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Saturday, July 21, 2007

Judge Helps Shirtless Mob Case Defendant

NEW YORK (AP) - He didn't get the nickname Vinny Gorgeous for nothing. The accused mob boss and former beauty salon owner was ruffled when he ran out of fresh dress shirts to wear at his murder trial, so the trial judge offered one from his closet.

"I'm not sure if it's color-coordinated," said Judge Nicholas Garaufis, who came through with a blue shirt and yellow tie that he keeps on hand for just such occasions.

Vinny Gorgeous, whose real name is Vincent Basciano, gave the get-up high praise.

"I would do my shopping here," he told the judge.

Basciano had been forced to pair his gray suit jacket with a T-shirt after a jail dress-shirt drop-off went awry. He told Garaufis the informal ensemble made him feel "uncomfortable."

"I know what's appropriate to wear in court," explained Basciano, 47, the one-time owner of the Hello Gorgeous salon.

Basciano was convicted last year of racketeering, attempted murder and gambling. The jury deadlocked over murder charge, though, leading to the retrial now unfolding in a federal court in Brooklyn.

Prosecutors allege that Basciano in 2001 killed Frank Santoro, said to be one of his rivals, because he believed Santoro wanted to kidnap one of his sons.

Basciano's attorney, James Kousouros, has said prosecutors built the case on untruthful testimony from mob turncoats.

Authorities say Basciano became the acting boss of the Bonanno organized crime family after the arrest of Joseph Massino, who was sentenced in 2005 to life in prison for orchestrating a quarter-century's worth of murder, racketeering and other crimes. Massino dodged a possible death sentence by agreeing to provide evidence against Basciano and other mobsters.

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